First Sea Lord Pays Milestone Visit To Lightning Force

First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin was joined by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, for a tour of RAF Marham.

The head of the Royal Navy has visited the Lightning Force at RAF Marham for the first time since it appointed its first senior service commanding officer. 

First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin was joined by Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, for a tour of the Norfolk base.

The two service chiefs met with RAF and Navy personnel who form the Force and also got to see where pilots and engineers are trained to fly and maintain the F-35B.

It was Adm Radakin's first visit to the base since Commander Mark Sparrow became the first Royal Navy officer to command the historic 617 Squadron - the first of two F-35B squadrons.

Adm Radakin said: "It was a pleasure and a privilege to be invited to join CAS [Chief of the Air Staff] for the day at RAF Marham.

"Lightning is a truly game-changing fifth-generation aircraft that will transform our abilities in the air. 

“It is an enormous honour that the RAF have given command of 617 Squadron to a Royal Navy aviator, and really underpins the extent to which we are completely integrated on this joint endeavour."

617 Squadron is known as 'The Dambusters' after the famous World War Two raids on German dams in the Ruhr Valley in 1943.

The squadron will take part in further flight trials with HMS Queen Elizabeth in the coming weeks (Picture: Royal Navy).

Cdr Sparrow, who took over from Wing Commander John Butcher, said he is "extremely proud" to be the squadron's first Navy commanding officer.

His appointment comes as F-35Bs prepare to undergo further flight trials with Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Last week, the Navy said the £3 billion warship was "one step closer" to its first operational deployment and on Wednesday, the ship's official Twitter account said it had concluded basic sea training ahead of trials with the F-35B.

The ship is expected to become operational in 2021, with F-35Bs from 617 Squadron operating from its flight deck.

Cover image: Sea Lord Admiral Radakin and Chief of the Air Staff Mike Wigston (Picture: Royal Navy).